Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Albert Mann Cuvee Albert Pinot GrIs 2008

Albert Mann - he's the man. Or he was the man
Albert Mann Cuvee Albert Pinot Gris 2008 (Alsace, France)
14%, Screwcap, $52
Source: Retail

I'm obviously on a bit of a Pinot Gris run at the moment, and being a serious fan of Albert Mann (here here and here) this seemed like a natural choice, even at a slightly inflated retail price.

This particular bottle though didn't quite hit the heights I'd expect from this label. It certainly looked the goods, with a green/golden straw colour (correct) and a full nose that suggested classic Alsatian deliciousness. The challenge though is just how ripe that yellow pear nose is, edged with volatility and just a hint of bottle fat to slightly obscure the purity of the fruit below.

On the palate too it's similarly broad and expansive, with more of that yellow pear and honeysuckle richness that carries all the opulence, but also looks a fraction sweaty and warmish through the back. No doubting the rich power and weight here but it's also a fraction blowsy, even despite the late acid dip. That sweetness mars the finish too, a cheeky final slap from a wine that shouldn't be fighting you.

Still, no doubting the hedonistic joy here (and if drunk icy cold it's still rather delicious) but in the context of the label it's not quite there. 16.9/89

Monday, 27 June 2011

Mayhem & Co Big Barrels Small Berries Shiraz 2009

Mayhem & Co Big Barrels Small Berries Shiraz
Very nice packaging indeed
Mayhem & Co Big Barrels Small Berries Shiraz 2009 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $35
Source: Sample

As the name suggests this sees largely larger French oak (85% new) and with only 500 cases produced. A smart effort from a heatwave vintage is this wine, showing plenty of the good bits of 09. Again the packaging deserves a mention too - smart minimalism.

The wine too is solid and well constructed, if in need of more time in the bottle. On the nose it's all solid, rounded, tarry red fruit with edges of quite fine - if reasonably dominant - French oak. The palate is quintessentially ripe, even tending just a bit tarry and rounded, with an evenness that is really rather attractive, all etched with vanillan oak sweetness. There's just a hint of shrivelling, though it still retains vibrancy through the warm finish, with no shortage of generosity and bounce (if not a heap of tannins).

A solid, stylish, modern Shiraz built in a strong regional style with a deft hand. Much to like here. 17.5/91

BEER: Budvar Budejovicky Premier Select

Budvar Premier Select - Sessionable AND boozy
BEER: Budvar Budejovicky Premier Select

One of the things that I like to do on weekend afternoons is to have a wander around some good local bottleshops (I'm a booze nerd after all) largely to see what's around. Now being the weekend, I'm often also dressed like a homeless man in, with a dark hoody and thongs the normal attire. Actually I'm sure it distracts shop assistants as to why - given my weekend attire - I seem to be fingering the imports, and more than one has followed me around a Vintage Cellars recently, but I really rather like travelling incognito as I get a lie of the retail liquor land.

This particular find then was hiding in the middle shelf of one particular store and immediately caught my eye. A Budvar with an orange label and 7.6% alc? What is this then? Read the fine print and it's like a Buvar 2.0: fitter, happier, more productive etc. and no doubt generally better (if boozier) all round. Naturally, a bottle had to follow me home....

Happily, said bottle was a winner too, showing all that is good about Budvar just with more stuffing - more booze, more weight and more fullness. More to like of it then really, or at least when I'm in that particular mood. 

As for the beer itself, it even looks more robust and darker in the glass, pouring a more macho bronze colour than 'normal' Budvar. There's still that sweaty Pils hop nose, but overlaid with more malty power, with a little Duval channeling also going on. The palate too is quite golden and malty, unmistakeably wamer though not hot, built in that same simple, water + hops + barley = beer style that Pilsener is meant to be like, yet even more malted, honeyed and richer,

In the end then I rather liked this. It's still sessionable (agreed Mr Bennie) but just a little tougher and more hardcore. You probably couldn't drink this for a whole night (as you'd be smashed. We both would be if on this) like you can with the 'standard' Budvar, but I'd be happy to have a few on my fridge's middle shelf. Yum.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Winestate Wine of the Year Awards 2010 - a look at some of the winners

Winestate Wine of the Year Awards 2010 - a look at some of the winners

Winestate Wine of the Year - Top win for
Lake Breeze
Each year, Adelaide based stalwart magazine Winestate compile a list of their top scoring wines from panel tastings during the year. They then put these top wines up against each other in a trophy-style wine taste-off, with the winners then lauded as the 'Winestate Wines of the Year'.

Now given the vagaries of the Winestate tastings themselves (which are notoriously variable to put it mildly) these winners can sometimes present as a rather odd collection of wines. But, rather than just judge on lists alone, this year I went and tasted a collection of the top scoring wines all in one place (just for consistency - you know what they say about assholes and opinions) and I'm happy to report that there was some genuinely fine vino amongst them.

The following wines then were all high scorers in the Winestate Wines of the Year (which I can't find online. Memo Winestate - your website is genuinely unhelpful and the search is broken). All were sampled in stand up style and not quite with the accuracy I would like, but hopefully you get the drift.

Freycinet 'Radenti' Sparkling 2000 (Tasmania)

10 years on lees for this puppy and I think the freshness suffers a fraction because of it. It's got a load of interesting lees characters though with biscuity autolysis richness but with a slightly dusty, and overbearing edge. Palate is just a fraction short given the nose, looking slightly faded and overworked really. Entirely pleasant and a good mouthful of fizz but not quite as sensational as it could be. 17/90

Mount William 'Macedon' Sparkling 2003 (Macedon, Vic)

Biscuity, evolved and quite complex style. It's a biggun' but no doubting the power or style here. Good stuff. 17.9/92

Trinity Hill White Label Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)

A typically ripe, passionfruit juice laden style, this looks vibrantly ripe and desirable in a really quite varietal simple style. Friendly. 17.5/91

Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Marlborough, NZ)
Crunchy, herbs-meets-citrus style, built long and classic. Perfectly proportioned palate shows excellent balance between acidity and fruit. Bang on Kiwi Sauv. 18/93 

Capercaillie Semillon 2008 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Peppery and herbal Semillon fruit with just a hint of pyrazine underripeness. Palate is dry and quite phenolic, with some very serious delineation and prominent acidity. It's arguably underripe (that'd be the 08 vintage influence too) but that palate couldn't be any more serious if it tried. I really quite liked the final effect actually, though it's one divisive and rather un-classic Hunter Sem. 17.7/92

Villa Maria 'Seddon' Pinot Gris 2009 (Marlborough, NZ)

Musky, peachy, perfumed nose with apricot fruit richness, lychee and custard - it's a true orgy of Pinot Gris goodness. On the palate too it's musky, rich and perfectly weighted. Just a lovely drink really. Solid through the finish too. Yum. 18.5/94

Prophets Rock Pinot Gris 2009 (Central Otago, NZ)

After the Villa this looks decidedly restrained, but still with that lovely honey peach nectar nose. On the palate it's a more neutral, leesy style but with some wonderful complexity, with sweet citrus, leesy mealy richness and firmer acidity. Another excellent Pinot Gris and only a smidgen behind the Villa Maria on the day. Close run race though. Again delicious. 18.3/93

Heggies Reserve Chardonnay 2007 (Eden Valley, SA)

Again a winner. A big, worked, creamy wild ferment nose, with overt solids derived richness, gumball yeast and a complex, layered, big palate. Lots of flavour, lots to like really, though still in a decidedly worked style. Rather smart Chardy indeed. 18.3/93

The Lane Beginning Chardonnay 2007 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
Really interesting to taste this straight after the Heggies - it looks much denser and considerably less fresh, carrying a big, figgy, heavily worked nose over a slightly broad, if full powered palate. To my taste this is just a fraction dried out, though as a whole I can realise that is quite well made and appealing. Close. 16.5/88

Giant Steps Sexton Chardonnay 2008 (Yarra Valley, Vic)

Dense, cool and coiled this looked classy and refined, if a little backward. Lovely creamy, minerally palate with an intriguing orange edge to it. Nice acidity and wild edges, all this needs is a little more bottle age for real greatness. 18/93

Villa Maria 'Southern Clays' Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008 (Marlborough, NZ)

Luscious. Really bright red fruit style, looking very pretty, open and juicy. The acidity is slightly spiky but otherwise this is one seductive Marlborough Pinot. Open and delicious. Another Villa winner. 18.5/94

Craggy Range Zebra Pinot Noir 2007 (Central Otago, NZ)

Heavily extracted, dense and lifeless style, looking rather four square and not going anywhere good. There is some juiciness on the palate but also a decidedly hard edge. Hard to get enthused by this...15.5/85

Saltram 'Winemakers Selection' Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (Barossa, SA)
Like oak? Like old school chocolate oak flavours and Barossan Cabernet? Then you'll love this. Otherwise don't bother. Nose is all choc-mint flavours with blackberry fruit in the background. Palate too has loads of oak, oak tannins and oak oak oak. Dusty, toasty, likely American (or heavy toast French) oak. There's definitely high quality fruit behind it all, but geez its an oakasauras. Plenty of people will love this though (and I can see the appeal) but you've got to like oak. 16.5/88

Wolf Blass Grey Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Langhorne Creek, SA)

Coudn't be any more traditional Wolf Blass Langhorne Creek Cabernet-ish if it tried. Minty, choc-spearmint nose with firm chocolatey fruit and oak on the palate. Dry, sticky, blocky, slightly desiccated tannins. Really drying finish. There is some charm here (and lots of density) but it's hardly easygoing... 16.8/89

Villa Maria Reserve Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2008 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
It's not quite in the same league as the reserve Pinots, but this is still a rather tasty red. Leafy, licorice strap and plum nose is happily varietal leading to a round, low acid palate. Tinny tannins perhaps the only downer. Great to see some varietal integrity here. 17/90

Lake Breeze Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Langhorne Creek, SA)
This wine picked up the 'Wine of the Year' gong which is quite an accomplishment given the lineup. What I like is how unashamedly regional it is - minty, bright and bold, the clean and very dry palate sitting firmly in the big and brawny side of the spectrum, though happily not overripe. Good, honest regional fair. Wine of the Year? Not even slightly. Good drink at a fair price? Unquestionably. 17.5/91

Preston Peak Reserve Shiraz 2008 (Granite Belt, QLD)
I was amazed to see that this is from QLD. Certainly the most interesting, stereotype smashing QLD wine I've seen in a while. This sees a bit of whole bunch action and certainly shows it (in a good way). Stalky, hammy, slightly stinky nose with sweet oak contrasting with the really rather serious winey elements. The palate isn't quite up to the nose, with some really overt bold sweetness that is a bit jarring. Still, it should settle down in the bottle and look pretty good. Certainly a shitload of intrigue with this. I can't help but feel positive. 17/90+

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2008 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
Peppery fruit - that's what this is all about. Rich, sweet, mid weight fruit, with a proper peppery cool climate edge. Arguably it's too sweet, glycerin rich and plump, but all that makes this rather seductive too. Nice wine and lots to like. 17.6/91

Saltram No.1 Shiraz 2006 (Barossa, SA)
A caricature of a wine. Sweet, minty, chocolate oak, with a sticky, confected and overt palate. It's probably rude to cut it down and call it shit, as beyond all the ridiculous artifice lies great fruit (which could do with more attention). The problem is all the other stuff in the way. More to the point, whilst I thought it old fashioned and over (American) oaked, there are plenty of people who adore this style.... 16.5/88

John Forrest Collection Noble Riesling 2005 (Marlborough, NZ)
Rich! No shortage of sweet fruit with this wine. It's massively proportioned, with a marmalade and cane sugar nose of huge density and power. The palate too is a big blunt mouthful of sweetness, with nary an angle in site. End result is big and unctuous but not pretty enough for love. 16.5/88

John Forrest Collection Noble Riesling 2006 (Marlborough, NZ)
Interestingly enouugh this seems equally as sweet as the 05, but with more acidity. The resultant style then has an extra vein of lemon lime through it and a zippy finish to counteract the sugar. Nice wine and entirely drinkable. 17.8/92

Trinity Hill Noble Viognier 2009 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
Speaking of full tilt styles, this pushes the envelope even further. Botrytis Viognier seems like a natural style methinks (and it can be done well in the Rhone) but this just pushes things too far. Creamy, hot and quite alcoholic nose over a broad and hot palate. Ultimately simple and flat. 15.8/86

Amisfield Noble Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Central Otago, NZ)
Central Otago Noble Sauvignon seems like a novel concept, and Amisfield are certainly talented enough to pull it off (their Pinot Rose is very smart), yet this is a car crash of a wine. Candied, tinned asparagus and grass meets toffee apple sweetness on the nose in an odd combination of flavors that carry through onto a plain odd sweet-and-sour palate. Not a fan. 14.5/81

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Astrolabe Experience 'The Rocks' Pinot Gris 2008

Astrolabe The Rocks
Pinot Gris - curvy
Astrolabe Experience 'The Rocks' Pinot Gris 2008 (Marlborough, NZ)
14.5%, Screwcap, approx $45
Source: Sample

I've got a lot of time for textural Marlborough Pinot Gris. I think, as a region. Marlborough can do it particularly well, with the wines offering a healthy dollop more complexity than even the best Marlborough Sauv. The appeal is simply one of texture - an element that good Pinot Gris is famous for.

As for this wine, it's unquestionably been made by someone who's well versed with Alsace (that'd be Simon Waghorn) and that's a very good thing in my books. Sourced from the 'Little Oasis' vineyard in the Awatere Valley, this was fermented in old oak with full solids and natural fermentation. The wine completed full malolactic fermentation in said barrels and then spent a further 16 months on lees, with frequent battonage along the way. Good recipe for complexity there.

And complexity is what is delivered. What I like most is that it has that lovely musky, old-school Aramis aftershave nose to it that yells clearly 'I am rich Pinot Gris and I'm booty-licious', backed up with a little nashi pear and some sweaty lees characters. It's just a fraction heady, but the richness seems to complement this pretty well. Palate wise it's slightly off dry (4g/l residual sugar) which again works in the wines favour, the palate full bodied and quite powerful, fully loaded with rich barrel ferment fullness and even a twinkle of nutty spice. It's just a fraction warm through the finish, but that's probably the only real detraction.

All in all this is a genuinely drinkable full house Pinot Gris, showing all the good bits of what this maligned variety can do when supported properly. I drank it with Salmon and wasabi mayo and it looked bloody good, if still a bit boozy. Still entirely worthy booze. 17.8/92

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Taylors 40yo Tawny Port

Taylors 40 Year Old Tawny Port (Oporto, Portugal)
20%, Cork, circa €80
Source: Kind friend

Port-a-licious! Fancy box too
I had the pleasure of sampling several very old Australian fortifieds from barrel just last week (it's a hard knock life) which really put this wine into context. Suffice to say we really do make fabulous, world class fortified wine (more on that story later next week).

As for this port, well it certainly looked and tasted 'typical', offering both the good and the bad bits of old tawny all rolled into one. Firstly, the bad - volatility. Obviously a well structured solera system is the key to old fortifieds, but whether the barrels that went into this particular bottle were topped up regularly enough (or kept in good condition) is somewhat up for contention. Simply put, it's got volatility a go-go, with a nose so searing that it feels like your nasal passage is melting. Ok, so it's not quite that bad, but suffice to say it's volatile.

Beyond the take-no-prisoners entry, the wine itself is genuinely attractive, rich with chewy caramel flavours that've been intensified over the years, with the vanilla etched barrel influences then continuing through the dry and savoury finish, ending warm and dry and with that trademark Portugese port varietal tang and savouriness (a savouriness which most Australian tawny styles are often accused of lacking).

In many ways then this is a stunning fortified, showing all the caramelised richness and complexity that 40 years will deliver. Yet it still falls short of the sort of endless viscosity and mind-blowing length of the comparable 40 year old tawny I tried last week in the cellars of Grant Burge, a notion which - when coupled with the distracting volatility - marks this as a very good, but not quite great, fortified (lovely with a pear and chocolate tart though). 17.9/93

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

1997 Chateau Latour

Chateau Latour 1997
Don't ask about the Alfoil....
Chateau Latour 1997 (Pauillac, Bordeaux, France)
13%, Cork (a ridiculously good cork at that), $277 (last Langtons auction price)
Source: Friend's cellar

I've bragged before about the joys of drinking fine aged wines from this particular cellar, so I won't do it again here (oops I think I just did). Needless to say I am always happy to help out...

As for this beautifully conditioned (the cork looked 3 years old, not 14) claret, what I found most interesting to note was simply how attractive it looked in context of it's vintage. As many people will remind you, '97 was one of the worst Bordeaux vintages of the last 20 years, producing generally underwhelming vino that languished on shelves for many years, the wines sitting at prices that had been overheated by the strength of the good '95 and '96 vintages immediately preceding.

Yet this looked far from ordinary. It's hardly a $277 bottle of wine, but I can happily say that my glass emptied at speed and offered no shortage of enjoyment in the process. The problem is that in the context of the '01 (which I sampled only a few weeks ago. Yes, I know, life is good and all that), this is unquestionably an inferior wine. What marks it as still respectable though is the simple joys of claret.

In the glass it certainly looks it's age, really rather ruby in colour, edged with tawny and carrying a noticeable fine grained pile of sediment building up like dirt in the bottom of the bottle. The nose too is mature and maturing, looking more meaty and decayed by the hour. There's also a hint of capsicum in there too, a reminder of a less than perfect vintage viticulturally speaking.

The palate though, well, it was lovely. Plain lovely. Medium bodied, supremely unforced and rather elegant, the acidity at that point of maximum refreshment that great claret does so well. It's a lightness without losing weight, a delicacy of body that really is so rare in many contemporary styles. It's the sort of balance and restraint that makes this form of wine the choice for luncheoning bankers and lawyers in the pointy end of town.
1997 Latour cork
Crap photo, magnificent cork

Once you look beyond all that lovely refreshment then, the only real issue is that it's just not all that persistent. It tails off pretty quickly, with (just) sufficient tannins but insufficient fruit power, all combining to provide a slightly lesser experience. It's like a Bentley that's missing a few cylinders, or a Chesterfield that is losing it's stuffing.

Regardless, there is no shortage of claret-ilicous attraction here. A gentleman/gentlewoman's drink if ever there was one.

Now hand me my smoking jacket.. 17.8/92

Monday, 20 June 2011

Hunter Valley Tweetup

Hunter Valley Tweetup
Brilliant old Hunter curio

I'm in a house-keeping mood this week, with a little sunshine and a free night or too making for some serious productivity. Or at least that's the intention (the week is but young).

As part of said housekeeping activities, I'm attempting to make a dent in the small mountain of tasting notes that sit here next to my computer. I figure the best place to start this mission is the scrawl covered, somewhat itinerant pieces of paper that float around the desk peripherals, each one of them containing all sorts of interesting tidbits that are just waiting, patiently, to be transcribed from (poorly) handwritten musings into something more legible (online).

The following scribblings then come from a tasting held in conjunction with the Rick Bakas Hunter Tweetup, a part of the WCA Rick Bakas Tour-a-palooza that recently lapped Australia. This Hunter tweetup was held in the old dirt-floored Tyrrell's winery and attracted no shortage of renowned local vignerons and wine people, all brandishing some very fine Hunter vino indeed. Good times.

A few of the notable highlights:

Thomas Wines 'Braemore' Semillon 2011 'deconstruction'
Now here is a side of Hunter Semillon that you don't usually see. Andrew 'Thommo' Thomas split up his 2011 Braemore Semillon into three different samples, given the names of 'Spine, Heart and Tail', with each corresponding to different components. The 'Spine' is thus some of the earlier picked, more bracing acid driven juice, the 'Heart' is essentially one of the juiciest and ripest components, with the 'Tail' including some pressings.

A beguiling exercise in the makeup of a Hunter Semillon this, I found myself initially drawn to the drive of the Spine. The Heart followed this with a slice of seductive fruit - apparently the Heart makes up a fair proportion of the blend, so this was probably to be expected - and it certainly looked showy compared to the other two components. Finally, the gritty, phenolic edge of the tail offering a slightly different attraction again, a down and dirty hit of phenolic power. Add all of these components, blend judiciously, and you can see just how complete (and complex) the final wine will be. Seriously fine Semillon to watch out for.

Thomas Wines Braemore 2011 deconstructed
Tyrrell's HVD Semillon 1995 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
From the Tyrrell's Museum, the bottle itself was absolutely covered in trophies and bling. In fact Chris Tyrrell believes this to be one of the finest wines that his family has ever made. I'd be inclined to agree.

Lightly toasty, honeycomb edged toast nose is rich but still citrussy. The palate is really rich and full, honeyed and rounded through the middle, though still looking very fresh, with some real honeycomb textural viscosity. Still quite buzzy and very dry through the finish too. Excellent, complex, wonderous wine. That honeycomb-meets-citrus flavoursome length is of endless attraction (for me at least). Did I mention the exceptional length?

A beautiful 'full' styled Hunter Semillon. Worthy. 18.9/96

Meerea Park Alexander Munro Semillon 2003 (Hunter Valley, NSW)

After the HVD this looks very ripe and heavy, with a very dense and heady nose that is really rather ripe and forward, and really quite typical for the (warm, dry) year. The lemon edged palate is very rich, maybe even a tad roasted, sitting with a big wallop of ripe, almost marmalade edged fruit. It's generous though and with gritty acidity. Long too. Interesting booze, though it still needs more delicacy. 17.7/92

Tyrrell's Pinot Hermitage 1980 (Hunter Valley, NSW)

Boom! Now here is an intriguing, O'Shea homage if ever there was one. It's really rather classic old Hunter Shiraz, but with a wild (Pinot) edge. Think treacle, bacon bits, chocolate and stink. It's actually really meaty and stinky in a roast-lamb-rolled-in-red-dirt-and-cocoa-powder style, but still quite fresh, and with no suggestion of anything untoward. It's just wonderfully meaty and flowing, finishing off gritty and earthen and interesting, with a happily long and appreciably tannic tail.

A lovely medium bodied drink, this is an easy 96 points on the curio scale, but more like 18.2/93 if pressed. Lovely ragu wine methinks.

Tyrrell's O.W. Hermitage 1983 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
After the Pinot Hermitage this actually looked rather caramelised and sweet, with an almost Violet Crumble like, oak artifice edged sweetness. The palate in particular is really rich and quite sweet, if still earthen and dry (if a bit warm) and Hunterish.

From a more general sense this is probably a little more easygoing than the wine above, but doesn't quite have the same intrigue or detail. Still plenty of pleasure though. 17.8/92 

Mcwilliams Rosehill Shiraz 1991 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Speaking of a little too much richness, this looked again like a big and (over) ripe style, carrying no shortage of oak sweetness to boot. Still, the flavours are all attractively red dirt and chocolatey in a classic regional form, even if everything looked a fraction warm and roasted against the wines above. 17/90

Tyrrell's Vat 9 Shiraz 1996 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
The biggest question mark here was whether this was bretty or just regional. I believe it's just a bit wild, with leather, bacon bits and slightly sweaty red fruit, over a rich and full palate. According to Andrew 'Spinner' Spinaze there is a little small American oak in there too and some extra oak richness because of it? Regardless, if you can get past that somewhat divisive nose there be much earthen pleasure to be had. 17.8/92

The current crop

I've tried some of these wines separately, but to have them lined up next to each other was certainly pleasurable. I'm an unabashed fan of the medium bodied, juicy style these wines espouse, as you can tell by the scores, but it's hard to look past the quality of the delicious 09 Shiraz in particular.

Tulloch Private Bin Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
I love the vibrancy here. It's so unforced and pretty, though not without body. A proper Hunter Burgundy if ever there was one.

Vibrant red berry nose. Really bright and juicy. Slight vanillan oak overtones. Slightly sour, elegant and dry, tannic palate. Long and very much in the zone. Perfect Hunter Shiraz. Almost swallowed this one. Yum. 18.3/93+

Lots of Hunter goodness here
Tyrrells Old Patch Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Typically my favourite of the Tyrrells single vineyard wines, this again fits the Hunter Burgundy mode, though there is a real purple berry fruit character in this wine that I rarely see in other Hunter Shiraz (and I'm really rather drawn to it).

Awesome colour. Juicy purple fruit nose. Really rich and juicy palate. All berry fruits. Hubba Bubba even. More tannins than the Vat 9. This looks in the zone! Grape Hubba Bubba with acidity and tannins. Dry, long and properly sculptured Shiraz in a classic style. Yes. 18.5/94+

Tyrrells 4 Acres Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
I've had this a few times now and I've found it to be a rather mercurial and quite ripe beast. I picked it as southern Italian in a blind lineup actually, which goes to show how ripe it can look.

It's a deeper wine than the Old Patch this one, but not quite as pretty. It's even more more purple berried though. Really overt and juicy as hell, if not quite as perfect as the Old Patch. I liked this, but it actually looked a little heady compared to the other wines? 18.2/93+

Mistletoe Reserve Shiraz 2006 (Hunter Valley, NSW)

Quite dense for the Hunter, with a real core of red to almost blueberry fruit. A dense style, real heart and fullness. Extra new oak? Still quite perfumed. I like the density here. Hard to fault, though maybe a little too flashy and full. Liked this a lot though. 18/93

Tempus Two Zenith Semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)

The Zenith Semillons are typically quite forward, yet also classic styles that always pickup wine show bling. This looks rather backwards though, with a very citrussy and almost gooseberry edge. Lemony and just a bit sullen, with seriously zippy acidity. Lots of acid actually, with bits of straw. An interesting wine actually, if a few years off drinkability. Quite a success for the label. 18/93++

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Petaluma Croser Late Disgorged 2000

Croser LD 2000
So very close!
Petaluma Croser Late Disgorged 2000
12.5%, Cork, $56
Source: Sample

I'd like to start this tasting note by talking about acidity. Skip ahead a few paragraphs to just read the review (particularly if you couldn't be bothered with my sparkling rambles) or otherwise read on.

Historically (I'm talking Champagne here), sufficient acidity was typically achieved in sparkling wines by growing grapes in typically very cool climes (on lean soils) and picking fruit early (when the grapes are just on the cusp of phenological ripeness, just before the natural acidity drops off and sugars increase) and then fermented with very neutral yeasts. This acidity was then balanced out in the wine itself by judicious sweetness additions (dosage), winemaking techniques (bottle and yeast lees ageing) and careful blending (including the use of older reserve wines).

More recently though we've seen a sparkling evolution away from this formula, as more producers grow grapes in less cool climes (from BD and organic vineyards), pick grapes later and riper, bottle with low or zero-dosage and focus solely on producing vintage wines, with a singular goal of producing more interesting (and better) sparkling wines, a goal which (I'd argue) has been absolutely met.

Yet in the same breath I'd also argue that in Australia we're still attempting to really succeed at this evolved style. Unquestionably we make some solid traditionally styled wines, and indeed we've recently made some bloody good Champagne quality wines, yet we're still a long way behind the curve. (With exceptions - Hanging Rock for one).

Which brings me to this Croser. A zero dosage, late disgorged vintage sparkling that spent a total of nine massive years on lees, it's pretensions are aimed squarely at top draw vintage Champagne, with a price that sits closer to the lower end of non vintage Champagne. Sound thinking there no doubt.

From a pure production point of view it's certainly properly made too. Barrel fermented with (Petaluma's own yeast) in old oak and clarified only using gravity, before being laid down for a nine year sleep. Sounds great.

In fact, the intentions are all bloody good with this wine, the extended ageing giving yeasty, toasty, golden richness (though not much autolysis breadiness, which is quite surprising) and no shortage of flavour. It's got some nice complexity too, the extra age giving it plenty of (clinical) flavour layers to show off.

In the same breath however, that time on lees has also robbed it of quintessential freshness, the yeast sitting heavy through the mid palate. The finish too - dosage free - is bone dry, the acidity bracing and just a fraction hard, leaving you feeling more brutalised than seduced, even if it is quite long.

Stepping back a bit then the question has to be asked - was this to big an evolutionary step to really make the style work? Would it have been a better wine if a little dosage and less lees contact had of been utilised during the winemaking process, perhaps to try and balance out said acidity and freshen the wine? Or conversely, if the grapes had of been picked later, fermented naturally and then bottled with no dosage could it have been a better 'no holes barred' wine?

I can't say I have the answers, but I do know that this wine, like so many Australian sparklings, shows so much raw potential, and certainly tastes like it has hints of greatness, even given the crap vintage (and I may indeed be being too harsh), yet in the final moments it just feels a little too forced for me to really fall in love. Will future vintages woo me more I wonder?.. 17.5/91

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Mini Shirazfest

Mini Shirazfest
Before heading off on my little South Australian long weekend sojourn, I thought it only appropriate to warm up last week with a lineup of straight Shiraz (I was going to South Australia after all). So I lined up these likely looking reds tasted them over the course of about 6 hours, retrying numerous times (in renowned Walsh style) and attempting to place similar priced wines with each other.

As always there was a surprise or two, yet the underlying theme again was simply that of overt youth. Even 12 months bottle age would help every single one of these wines, no exceptions. It's a tired line, but it would be nice to see more bottle age on $20 Australian Shiraz. Never going to happen though... 

Shiraz x 3
Chapel Hill Parsons Nose Shiraz 2010 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $16
I'd be surprised if there isn't any Viognier in this, such is the plummy lift. Plums, candied fruit, cherries. It's all fruit. Palate is dry, mid palate driven and very juicy, just lacking the drive through the back palate. It'l settle more into it's skin as it matures but the drive isn't amazingly attractive. Tart acidity. Looks juicy and generous, but also very simple and 'cheap tasting'. 16/87

George's Exile Shiraz 2008 (Clare Valley, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $13
Big bottle and smart packaging makes this look more expensive than what it is. The price matches the quality though sadly, announced with an overripe nose, slightly lacking in freshness. A washed out nose. Palate has some seriously overripe fruit in this that looks to have been cut back with some winemaking trickery. Lacks enough freshness really. 15/83 

Shaw Winemakers Selection Shiraz 2008 (Canberra District)
14.5%, Screwcap, $16
3 Silver Medals. Good silver medal quality too. Star anise, black peppercorns and soy on the nose. Rather dry, chewy, slightly warm and medium bodied palate has nice black fruit flavours and a touch of twiggy bitterness on the finish. Lots of slightly chewy flavour and heart on the palate. Great value drinking at this price. Proper cool climate spice too. Good. 17.2/90

Nepenthe Shiraz 2009 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $20
Looking rather thick, glossy and rich with particularly prominent French oak. Vanillan oak gloss all over the nose too along with raspberry fruit. There's substance to the palate but also a fair dose of oak. I eventuallay came down slightly in the wines favour as it doesn't lack heart, just needs a little less edifice and a little time. 16.8/89+ 

Pyren Broken Quartz Shiraz 2009 (Pyrenees, Vic)
13.9%, Screwcap, $18-20
Glace, super ripe fruit nose, but still with freshness. Fresh red berries. Juicy, fraction overripe palate has lots of red fruit and is impressively vibrant and light. Yes to the drinking fun here! 16.9/89 

Mcguigan 'The Shortlist' Shiraz 2009 (Barossa, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $29
Concentrated, raspberry juice/oak amalgam nose. Very youthful, just out of barrel nose. Slightly volatile. A little hard to call now, give the youth. A little overripe perhaps but not badly. Lots of wood. Long, oaky, but ultimatley hearty and solid Barossan Shiraz palate. Proper length too. Plenty to like and more to come. 17.6/91+

Tintilla Reserve Shiraz 2007 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
13.5%, Screwcap, $30
Hello Hunter dirt! Super regional style this, overlaid with sweet vanillan French oak, and a rather rich mid palate. It's a little bound up in itself, but you just know this will be looking good in five more years time. Proper Hunter Shiraz style, with fine grained, gritty tannins and a earthen medium bodied style that will absolutely appeal to Hunter fans. I liked it. 17.7/92+

Galafrey Reserve Shiraz 2006 (Mt Barker, WA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $35
Welcome back Shiraz! Earthern, mushroom, slow cooked beef, peppercorns nose. Distinct and mature, interesting stuff! Varietal! Soft, grainy and slightly oak driven palate is savoury, lean and meaty, the tannins quite precise and full, the finish proper and varietal. I like this. It's a smidgen divisive I think but much to like. Proper conviction behind it. 17.9/93+

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Isole e Olena Cepparello 2006

Isole e Olena Cepparello 2006 (Tuscany, Italy)
14%, Screwcap, $100
Source: Retail

I'm ensconced in all things South Australian wine at the moment, so in many ways it feels a little rude to be writing about a Tuscan Sangiovese. Yet this is definitely worth highlighting, particularly given that I didn't write any notes and I want to remember the good bits. Great to see the screwcap too.

What is most satisfying about this wine is the tannins. Long, dry, chalky, firm, Italianate tannins. The sort of fine grained, stick-your-cheeks-together tannins that reputations are made with. The nose carries quite a dose of figgy ripe fruit - tending towards glace cherries, red berries, and blood plums, teetering on the edge of overripeness even. But the palate is still so savoury, minerally. dry and composed that you sort of forget that super ripe fruit may even be involved.

The end result is a modern Sangiovese built in an enviably (for most new world Sangio producers) attractive mould. Pure and sexy stuff. 18.4/94

Monday, 6 June 2011

Two 2007 Chablis

Moreau Naudet Chablis 2007 +
Billaud Simon Chablis 2007 =
Chablis x 2
Two 2007 Chablis

I've got something of a soft spot for Chablis, and if given the choice will naturally gravitate towards it on a really good wine list. Not expensive in terms of the quality either.

These are two pretty basic AC Chablis, but still present some very reliable and quite correct drinking for not much dollars. I think I'd prefer to drink AC Chablis a little bit younger, but there still be pleasure here. Both wines imported by Barrique Fine Wines

Domaine Moreau Naudet Chablis 2007 (Chablis, France)
12.5%, Cork, $25

Of the two this definitely looked the more appreciably classic, carrying a lime juice, oyster shells and cream nose. Palate is quite broad and showing some bottle age fat and richness, finishing a touch flabby. It's probably at its peak now and provides plenty of Chablis character for the dollars. Simply drinkable. 16.7/89

Domaine Billaud Simon Chablis 2007 (Chablis, France)
12.5%, Cork, $36
Interestingly, I'm not sure if this is actually the more drinkable wine of the two, though it's definitely got the better structure. It's a quite lean wine, with a chalky, grapefruit driven nose, backed by a sour and dry palate marked by quite chalky acidity. Perhaps a little sullen, this gets the nod thanks to some extra length and acidity. Again a pleasant drink. 16.9/89

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Blind Corner Cremant 2009

Blind Corner Cremant
Goodness +
Blind Corner Cremant 2009 (Margaret River, WA)
12%, Crown Seal, $30
Source: Retail

There exists something of a hole in the Australian bubbly market. A hole that could be filled with a wine such as this... A bottle fermented, single vineyard (off a block currently in conversion to Biodynamics) sparkling Chenin Blanc that spent 16 months on yeast lees. It's got some of the detail of a traditional Pinot/Chard based, Champagne inspired style but with the sort of simple, fruit driven purity that has fuelled the Prosecco boom. On a conceptual level at least I'm particularly excited by this wine indeed.

Happily, it delivers on that promise too. It's very young and greenish, but it never feels underripe, with a neutral, dry nose that at first looks a little monochromatic, until you pick up the understated wafts of yeasty hay and citrus that is. That character is carried through onto the very dry and understated palate, which similarly carries some clever textural highlights to have you coming back. It finishes dry, Chenin citrussy and almost briny, yet never hard or overtly acidic.

Strictly speaking it's a simple wine (which is why it doesn't get mega points), but I think that's the intention, just like Prosecco. It's more about purity, delicacy and refreshment. I'm a fan (and going to buy more). 17.8/92

Friday, 3 June 2011

Prentice Ramato Pinot Gris 2010

Prentice Pinot Gris
It's sexy
Prentice Ramato Pinot Gris 2010 (King Valley, Vic)
13.5%, Screwcap, $24
Source: Dinner

This was one of the highlights of a recent dinner with Mr Prentice (Neil) himself, an interesting character with similarly intriguing wines. I'll write up the rest of the notes soon enough, but this is worth talking about now.

Produced with the benefit of a little skin contact, this has to got be one of the more exciting Australian Pinot Gris I’ve seen in a while. The sexy pink/orange hue just adds to the appeal.

What is perhaps the most alluring thing about it is the nose though. Musk sticks, Wizz Fizz, rose water and a little nectarine. It’s like a little floral pot of delight. The palate isn’t quite as exciting as the nose, but it does show plenty of rich and full red apple flavours with some lovely roundness, before a slight mid palate dip, then finishing with a tight phenolic bite (thanks to the skin contact) and crisp acidity. Intriguing Pinot Gris this and more than a little bit sensual. 18/93

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Mayhem & Co. B & W Chardonnay 2009

Mayhem & Co Chardonnay
Nice minimalistic packaging
Mayhem & Co. B & W Chardonnay 2009 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $32
Source: Sample

Single vineyards, wild ferments, minimal intervention and realistic pricing. That's the story of these Mayhem & Co. wines and it sounds very appealing. Packaging is rather smart too. Big ticks.

As for this wine, it's a hand picked, basket pressed Chardonnay from the Bowyer Ridge vineyard near Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills. In fact, all I can see that stands between this wine and success is about 6 months, which is how long it's going to take for the slightly overt oak to integrate.

That oak stamps it presence with a raw wash of slightly gummy vanilla, a vanillan that sits on top of the fruit, rather than being integrated through it. Still, underneath the wood is a rich, yet nicely balanced palate that finishes crisply (if just a fraction full).

Net result? Foundations are there, all that is needed is a little patience for the rest to take proper shape. 17.6/91+

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Grant Burge Red Trio

Grant Burge Red Trio

Grant Burge Red trio - Rich!
They're always consistent wines are the Burge reds. Built in a rather traditional fashion, the emphasis here is on chocolatey oak and plump fruit richness, in an open and full vein. I think I'd like to see just a little more freshness, but that might well be at the cost of the trademark lusciousness.

Grant Burge Filsell Shiraz 2009 (Barossa, SA)
14.5%, Cork, $39
Source: Sample

Speaking of vintage, this comes from a year that wasn't super kind to Barossa Valley Floor Shiraz. Not as challenging as 08 perhaps, but certainly another heatwave year, producing rather ripe and plump wines that can look a little desiccated. A ripping Grenache and Mourvedre year though.

This has a really sweet cherry pie and chocolate nose, leaning very much towards the slightly stewed, cooked plum, red fruit end of the spectrum. Palate is just a little stunted too, but still shows plenty of Barossan rich fruit character. It's plump and appreciably generous, but a tad too soft and overripe in the wash. Still a reasonable drink (and sure to satisfy many) but I've had better Filsells. 16.8/89 

Grant Burge Corryton Park Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Eden Valley, SA)
14.5%, Cork, $35
Source: Sample

Interestingly, this is a rather varietal Cabernet for the Barossa (that'll be the Eden Valley influence), carrying a dusty, choc-mint and eucalpyt nose that is quite appealing (especially to a mint slice lover like myself). The palate too marries juicy fruit with firm Cabernet tannins to make for a rather complete package. It could do with a fraction more weight perhaps, but certainly plenty to like. The dry, long finish is admirable too. Good, solid drinking ahoy. 17.6/91

Grant Burge Meschach Shiraz 2006 (Barossa, SA)
14.5%, Cork, $155
Source: Sample

One of the Barossan big guns, this has undergone something of an evolution this year, with the oak throttled back a notch. The story here is still all about rich, thick, oak charged, intensity plus Barossan Shiraz flavours, built big yet without crossing over into the old, Parker-esque era alcoholic viscosity. Old school stylin' regardless.

Heck it just looks beasty, throwing a look-at-that-sediment! crust already. The nose too is heavy, rich and heady, both opulent and rich, if still a little four square. There's a raisined edge in there too that at first I thought might signal overripeness. Thankfully the palate looks fresher than expected, with lots of fully invested, sweet and seductive, chocolate American oak, backed by dense and bulky black fruit. What I really like to see though is the tannins, which are a fraction oak driven, but certainly nicely prominent, everything finishing with the sort of Grange-like, limitless richness that makes reputations.

A deep, old vine Shiraz built in a rather classic Barossan idiom, this flirts with over-ripeness, before that deep dark back palate brings it all back together. Good stuff.. 18.4/94